REFRAMING A 'THEORY OF ORIGIN' OF MALAY ARCHITECTURE: A BASIS FROM THE PUBLIC REALM

Puteri Shireen Jahn Kassim, Noorhanita Abdul Majid, Norwina Mohd Nawawi, Tengku Anis Qarihah Raja Abdul Kadir

Abstract


                                                                           

The origins of Malay architecture is typically linked to its vernacular past and vocabulary, primarily  expressed  in  its residential  timber traditions and  arising from its detailed timber artisanship and constructions. Its constructional ingenuities had evolved a rich  diverse language and grammar with its own localised  aesthetics. Localized skills of the indigenous  translate into structural and constructional marvels. This paper however, attempts to reframe a theory of origin  of Malay architecture, extending from this basis and into the public realm of the Malay world. The roots of form of its traditional palaces and mosques represents the  architectural and urban core of the regional past and thus can constitute a resource of expanding  an ‘urban’ language. This paper reports on the mapping these palaces, using visual resources and reconstructions of surviving 17th century to the 1800s, to align these  “early classicalised” and compact structures of different regions of Malay world, with shared expressions in  their elevations and ornaments. Using these as departure points, the paper conceptualises an evolutionary ‘tree’ or geneanology which can account for  the multiple and varied  ethnocentric origins of the Malay world, argued as three main streams that had synthesised and mixed across time. The diverse public forms at different sites are linked to common archetypes in  an  attempt to re-enact a theory of origin. A qualitative approach taken in this research, focusing on aligning past ethnographic and anthropological  findings of other researchers; including ethnolinguistic  classifications and  evolutions from different regionsargues to find geneanological roots and variants that explain the diversity. Using existing drawings, sketches on site visit, photography and literature reviewa, the paper selecta key regions  as case studies, and the  configurations of the public buildings  are mapped in order to  reframe into a theoretical taxonomy of origins. The taxonomy suggests  a probable genealogical ‘tree’ of Malay architecture, from which its narrative can be reconstructed. Data in terms of elevational design, suggest five formal archetypes , which are the  linear axial, layout configuration, deep plan projection, binuclear form, central and peristyle forms; and three ‘strands’ of  ornamental character and stylisation. It  proposes that a Classicalised  language of Malay architecture, is possible  which can  mirror its  ethnolinguistic  and socio-political ‘urban’ origins, rather than stagnate into the hegemony of the  ‘indigineous’;  into a universal  theory of beginning.


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